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How to choose a country/city?

11 Post author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 01:48AM

EDIT: I've found a very relevant indicator for my question, see "Quality of life" criteria below.


My main question is: which non-academic factors should I consider when moving to another country/city for a PhD? Further, I would also like to evaluate each country/city1 according to those criteria, but first I need to know which are the relevant criteria. If you know any (any at all) scientific literature on moving to another country and well being, let me know.

I've lived in Brazil all my life, I really like it here for many reasons. Mostly, by how personal relationships are established and maintained. However, Brazil's inability to construct a stable well developed society have crippled my intellectual development, and I simply cannot take it anymore - my brain will die here. Moreover, I feel like most of my high level desires(values) are much more in line with countries on the other end of the World Values Survey graphic. I have rational/secular and self-expressing values, instead of traditional-survival oriented ones. For all those reasons, I will be applying for my PhD aboard. I have pondered many of the career and academic factors involved, and I've had the help of many good and objective indexes available (e.g.: here and here). I've mapped most of the Departments of Philosophy in which I could research my topic (moral enhancement), and I believe these are the major factors. However, there is one other important factor I'm a bit clueless about: which country/city is better in all other aspects already not accounted by academic criteria?

My main options are2:

  • 1st: Oxford (no need to explain)
  • 2nd: Manchester (it's near Oxford, John Harris is there, one of the foremost researchers on moral enhancement)
  • 3rd: Stockholm (where everyone is born a transhumanist)
  • 3rd: Wellington, New Zealand (Nicholas Agar is there, one of the foremost researchers on moral enhancement)
  • 4th: Some places in continental Europe I'm still investigating (e.g.: Zurich , Munich)
  • 4th: Brazil (bioethics program in Rio de Janeiro)

However, this list is solely based on academic criteria. I need to factor in non-academic criteria. In fact, I do not even know which are the relevant non-academic criteria. That would be my first question.  I got fixated on the World Values Survey factors, but I might be wrong. I would gather the happiness index is important, but it might not vary for the same individual between countries, or it might covary oddly with the happiness index of the destination country.  My second question would be how each country/city is ranked according to these criteria.

There are many things that will be affected by accessing these other factors. First, I think Oxford is far, far above the 2nd option. But it is above enough that if I do not get in there on the first time (80% probability), I should wait and apply next year again instead of going to somewhere else where I did get accepted? Second, my current plan is to build the strongest possible application for Oxford and use it elsewhere. But if Oxford is not so clearly the undisputed 1st place, then I should be more concerned with building a good application that also accounted for other countries specific criteria. Furthermore, right now, I think I have a major bias against New Zealand. In terms of moral enhancement research it would be the second best after Oxford, it has huge human development, freedom and happiness indexes. However, the fact it is in the freaking middle of nowhere is very discouraging. Am I wrong about this? What are the correct factors I should be accounting for?

Here is a list of the factors I could gather from the comments, mostly the one by MathiasZaman:

  • World Values Survey: Already explained above, I believe is one of the most important. But I wonder if I'm not biased and fixated on this. I would also like to have a Cities Values Survey, since in reality I'm choosing cities.
  • Quality of life: It should matter. But I haven't found a good index for not-huge cities. The index for countries are well know. Sweden and New Zealand take the lead, then England and after a while Brazil. However, obviously, being an expatriate changes things a lot. If you know of an expatriates' quality of life index for cities or countries, please, let me know. However, there's one good indicator for expatriates available, but it is only for countries though.
  • Relative closeness to other countries: I'm having a hard time spelling out this one, but check this comment by Kaj.
  • Language barrier: This is hard to account for. I'm expecting that in no developed country I would be put in a situation where relevant people (from my university) would not be talking in English if I'm on the conversation. If it is not true, this is majorly relevant. If it is true, this is mildly relevant. I would expect this would be both a function of English proficiency and willingness to talk in English. Note Sweden is the highest in proficiency and the rest of continental Europe is the lowest. However, I do not know how to find the "willingness" factor.
  • Socio-economic system: Highly relevant. I believe this is accounted for on the World Values Survey, as type of government strongly covaries with values. More modern (rational-secular/self-expressing) have more liberal systems, while less modern have more strong governments. (while the really ancient ones have almost no State).
  • Public transport and real estate: Highly practical and I would not have thought if not for the comments. Commuting times and cost are very important. Real estate also, one of the many reasons I have not considered London was because of extremely high rents. Also, this brings back to mind why I posted this. I remember reading a very useful post on how to choose a house, where it pointed out to many relevant but unaccounted factors, commuting was one of them. What I want is something similar for cities.
  • Finances: It is mildly relevant, I do not believe I will have a desire for anything else besides researching, specially in Oxford. But I might be wrong. How I will finance myself is still a bit uncertain. For high ranking universities I will probably have a scholarship from Brazil, otherwise I will need a scholarship from elsewhere. With the probabilities in brackets, and some living costs factored in:
    • Oxford: Brazilian government scholarship. They will give me 1100 EUR per month besides paying for all the fees and accommodation. They pay one international travel per year. (90%) High living costs.
    • Manchester, same as above. (70%)
    • Stockholm: Swedish government salary (there a PhD is a job). For an Physics position it was ~2500 EUR per month.(100%) It has a very high living cost for expatriates
    • Wellington: I don't know, but will find out.
    • Brazil: 950 EUR per month (70%). Low living costs. 
  • International status: Makes a huge difference if one lives in a city by desire or by merely being born there. Prima facie, one should be more interesting if she is there by desire. Thus, I should give priority to more international cities. I will have to use anecdotal evidence here, since on normal datasets low skilled immigrants will dominate the sample. If I were less busy, I would compile data on an university-by-university basis.

Finally, please remember this not a competition between countries or cities and refrain for expressing any, however tiny, nationalism on the comments. I'm not expressing my subjective feelings either, I'm merely trying to find out the relevant factors and how countries or cities rank according to them.

 

Footnotes:

1. I would mostly like to be comparing cities, which was what I did when accounting for academic criteria, however (a) some datas are only available for countries, (b) in some cases I do not know to which city I will go and (c) this makes the analysis more complex.

2. US is out of the table for 4 reasons: (1) I would have to throw my MPhil on the garbage and start over. (2) Isn't that far away from a survival-traditional oriented society. (3) GRE (philosophy is the most competitive PhD program, I would have to nearly ace it, and I simply can't do that at the present time) (4) Doesn't have many transhumanistic oriented philosophy departments, specially on the top universities. Canada is out for (1), (3) and (4).

Comments (59)

Comment author: ChristianKl 03 November 2013 05:20:24AM 9 points [-]

I don't think that focusing on countries is the way to go. You live in a city. Compare cities. San Fransico is completely different from somewhere in Texas.

Comment author: joaolkf 03 November 2013 06:12:17AM *  1 point [-]

You are right. In fact, I was mostly comparing cities. I don't know why I decided to phrase the text as comparing countries. It just seems harder to have good statistics for cities. There's no Cities Values Survey.

Comment author: ChristianKl 03 November 2013 08:53:03AM 2 points [-]

Bad data is worse than no data.

When you want hard data http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World'smostlivable_cities might be interesting.

Comment author: MathiasZaman 02 November 2013 01:25:47PM 8 points [-]

What might help is making a comprehensive list of things you're looking for a in a country, assign importance to each of those things and then see which country rates highest in the important categories.

Going of you post I'd say:

  • Ability to complete phd (rated high, let's say around .80 or .90)
  • Rational/secular population (rated moderately high .70)
  • Values self-expression (.70)
  • Happiness (also rather high, maybe .80)
  • Relative closeness to other countries (I don't know, maybe .50 or .60?)

And I'd also add a couple of more (and if you start thinking about it, you'll probably come up with a lot more):

  • Language barrier
  • Socio-economic system
  • Political situation
  • Public transport
  • How good you feel about the country

Apart from doing this, I'd also gather a lot of anecdotal data from people who live in those countries and especially people who moved to those countries or studied there.

Comment author: joaolkf 03 November 2013 12:30:36AM *  2 points [-]

Thank you, your comment is really useful. My main problem would be: "what are the things I should be looking for?". I got fixated on the World Values Survey factors, but I might be wrong. I would gather happiness is important, but it might not vary for the same individual between countries. The "Relative closeness to other countries" is a difficult one, I thought it would be really important but some people here pointed out it mightn't. I will address this later on my comment to Kaj.

You provided me with some additional possible factors. Here are my thoughts on them:

Language barrier

This is hard to account for. I'm expecting that in no developed country I would be put in a situation where relevant people (from my university) would not be talking in English if I'm on the conversation. If it is not true, this is majorly relevant. If it is true, this is mildly relevant. I would expect this would be both a function of English proficiency and willingness to talk in English. The first data is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EF_English_Proficiency_Index And indeed, as many have said, Sweden is number 1. However, I do not know how to find the "Willingness" factor.

Socio-economic system

Relevant. I believe this is accounted for on the World Value Survey, as type of government strongly covaries with values. More modern (rational-secular/self-expressing) have more liberal systems, while less modern have more strong governments. (while the really ancient ones have almost no State).

Political situation

Given all my choices are highly developed countries, I don't think this is relevant. But I'm not completely sure. What did you mean here?

Public transport

Yes, indeed. Highly practical and not accounted for. Commuting times and cost, real estate market and so on are very important. One of the many reasons I have not considered London was because of extremely high rents. Also, this brings back to mind why I posted this. I remember reading a very useful post on how to choose a house, where it pointed out to many relevant but unaccounted factors, commuting was one of them. What I want is something similar for countries.

How good you feel about the country

Given I have never visited most of them, is this really relevant? Ideally, how I feel should track all the other relevant factors.

Comment author: MathiasZaman 03 November 2013 01:20:43AM 2 points [-]

My main problem would be: "what are the things I should be looking for?".

That's hard to tell, since some factors will always be personal. What you could do is think about the stuff you like and dislike from your country and the countries you have visited. I wouldn't have thought of "public transport" unless I noticed how terrible Belgium does it and how much better Germany and the UK do it.

Given all my choices are highly developed countries, I don't think this is relevant. But I'm not completely sure. What did you mean here?

I can only really speak for parts of Europe, but there's nuances in each country. The country I live in, for example, has most of its political power tied up in whether or not to split the country, making government less efficient than in neighboring countries. Another factor might be the number of parties, allowing for more nuance in government (the presence of smaller fringe parties might be particularly telling).

But it's perfectly possible that none of this matters to you, so you can certainly ignore it if it doesn't apply.

Given I have never visited most of them, is this really relevant? Ideally, how I feel should track all the other relevant factors.

I remember reading somewhere (but I really can't remember where and a cursory check on google leads me nowhere) that people where generally happier with their car if they liked the way they felt about the car, instead of just going over an objective list of good car qualities. Maybe this plays less of a role with choosing a country (I certainly hope so) but it could be a forgotten factor otherwise.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 02 November 2013 09:54:14PM 2 points [-]

Also keep in mind that sometimes, what you are looking for in a country is highly correlated with people being from elsewhere. So the people will be the kind of people who are "willing to move for reason X" and those tend to be interesting people. If that is the case for you, as it is for me, you have to increase importance of multicultural metropolitan areas, and decrease the importance of big cities which almost have no foreigners.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 02 November 2013 11:00:53AM 5 points [-]

Finland is probably comparable to Sweden, though we don't really have any transhumanist university programs that I'd be aware of, so that probably excludes us.

I wonder if there might be other departments than philosophy ones that might also allow you to focus on moral enhancement? E.g. possibly some psychology department doing research on moral psychology. Philosophy does seem more suitable, though.

I think I have a major bias against New Zealand. In terms of moral enhancement research it would be the second best after Oxford, it has huge human development, freedom and happiness indexes. However, the fact it is in the freaking middle of nowhere is very discouraging.

I think that this mostly matters if you are intending to travel to other countries a lot. If you do, then travel time becomes a factor, but if not, then it doesn't necessarily matter that it takes a long time to visit any. Also, if you're in e.g. England, then you do have a lot of other countries nearby - but if you are mostly only visiting Brazil and the USA (for example), then the fact that those other countries are nearby doesn't matter, if you never visit them anyway.

I'm not sure of how to predict how much you will be traveling, though. I'm guessing that if there are other countries nearby, then it's more likely that your department might be collaborating with universities from those nearby countries. I'm under the impression that academic conferences aren't very important in philosophy? If you were going for a field where they were, it could be worth looking at where the major conferences were usually held.

I guess that being in a remote location might also be reflected in the local price level (with stuff that needs to be imported being more expensive), but if you care about that it'd be better to just do price level comparisons directly.

Comment author: hyporational 03 November 2013 05:03:48AM 1 point [-]

Finland is probably comparable to Sweden, though we don't really have any transhumanist university programs that I'd be aware of, so that probably excludes us.

I think our universities suck, internationally speaking and compared to Sweden, don't they? At least in the philosophy department they probably do.

Finland would be a huge leap upwards from Brazil, though.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 06 November 2013 09:13:15AM *  2 points [-]

The University of Helsinki generally hovers around the position of the 70th best university in the world in the Shanghai Ranking and the QS World University Rankings, and around the 100th position in the Times Higher Education Ranking. It's the only Finnish university to make the top 100; of Swedish universities, Karolinska Institutet (Shanghai: 40-50, QS: -, Times: 36), Lund University (Shanghai: 90-100+, QS: ~70, Times: 123), Stockholm University (Shanghai: ~80, QS: -, Times: 103), and Uppsala University (Shanghai: ~70, QS: ~70, Times: 111) make the lists.

Only QS offers the option to filter universities specifically by their ranking in the field of philosophy: in the 2013 rankings, Stockholm University is the only Swedish university to make the top 200 list: it's ranked as being in the 50-100 range. Out of Finnish universities, the University of Helsinki is tied with Stockholm University in the 50-100 position, and the University of Turku makes it to the 101-150 position.

Whether any of these ranking lists actually tells anything useful is another question, of course.

Comment author: somervta 02 November 2013 11:25:38AM 3 points [-]

I'm a New Zealander - feel free to ask if you have any questions. I live in the other island though, in Christchurch, although I've been to Wellington and have family there.

Comment author: free_rip 07 November 2013 11:05:30PM 1 point [-]

Same here, in Christchurch, happy to answer any questions.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 11:04:45PM 0 points [-]

Thank you! I will soon.

Comment author: jamesf 02 November 2013 04:50:23PM 5 points [-]

[the US] isn't that far away from a survival-traditional oriented society

America contains multitudes; by living in the right place and exposing yourself to the right information, you don't really have to be aware of all the people who determined its World Values Survey results. (I suspect this is also true in Brazil...)

the fact [New Zealand] is in the freaking middle of nowhere is very discouraging.

Why? You haven't expressed that living somewhere with high population density or lots of popular nearby attractions is important to you.

Finally, note that you could remove "rationally" from the title and exactly the same meaning would be conveyed, since we're on a blog about rationality.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 November 2013 01:50:01AM 2 points [-]

America contains multitudes; by living in the right place and exposing yourself to the right information, you don't really have to be aware of all the people who determined its World Values Survey results. (I suspect this is also true in Brazil...)

Expanding on this: When comparing different countries, it can be useful to imagine "normalizing" large countries by breaking them into chunks the size of Norway. Many aspects of day-to-day experience depend only on local conditions.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 11:21:45PM *  0 points [-]

America contains multitudes; by living in the right place and exposing yourself to the right information, you don't really have to be aware of all the people who determined its World Values Survey results.

Yes, certainly. But it is still the case World Values Survey results are relevant. I do not know exactly the people I will come about when I move to another country. All of them are expected to be biased towards academic values. Still, the values of the survey predict each country specific bias. I have met academics from USA on my area, and they are all very clearly much more obsessed with their careers (survival and traditional value) than with having a meaningful life. But I reckon my sample is very small.

(I suspect this is also true in Brazil...)

No. Brazil is so screw up that during 26 years I have found only one intelligent person with my set of values. Meet diegocaleiro. He is also leaving the country, by the way. In fact, most really smart people are. Note I live in Brazil's largest metropolitan area (and world's 7th), and I have visited 20 out of 27 states.

Why? You haven't expressed that living somewhere with high population density or lots of popular nearby attractions is important to you.

No, I haven't. I will address the "isolated country" factor on my reply to Kaj and then add that to the post afterwards.

Finally, note that you could remove "rationally" from the title and exactly the same meaning would be conveyed, since we're on a blog about rationality.

Fixed.

Comment author: jamesf 03 November 2013 01:47:23AM *  1 point [-]

I'm skeptical of the implicit dichotomy between a successful career and a meaningful life (especially for academics!). I may very well just think that because I'm also from the US. As for my n=1, I live in New York and get to enjoy the rationalist and tech communities here and generally don't interact with any other demographic.

Comment author: hyporational 03 November 2013 04:58:53AM 2 points [-]

How will you finance your studies? Will this vary from country to country?

Comment author: joaolkf 03 November 2013 06:37:32AM *  1 point [-]

This is still uncertain. For high ranking universities I will probably have a scholarship from Brazil, otherwise I will need a scholarship from elsewhere. With the probabilities in brackets:

  1. Oxford: Brazilian government scholarship. They will give me 1100 EUR per month besides paying for all the fees and accommodation. They pay one international travel per year. (90%)

  2. Manchester, same as above. (70%)

  3. Stockholm: Swedish government salary (there a Phd is a job). For an Physics position it was ~2500 EUR per month.(100%)

  4. Wellington: I don't know.

  5. Brazil: 950 EUR per month (70%).

Comment author: CronoDAS 02 November 2013 11:42:42AM 2 points [-]

One thing to keep in mind might be language barriers; I'd guess you're a native Portuguese speaker and speak English competently, but I don't know how far English gets you in Sweden.

Comment author: Baughn 02 November 2013 06:14:12PM 3 points [-]

Much farther than in, say, Germany.

Most swedes speak English competently; certainly all the ones he'd interact with for a PhD will. He'll probably be expected to learn Swedish if he wants to stay afterwards, however.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 11:09:28PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks. Do you know exactly how far English gets me in most European countries? Also, could you elaborate some more on what "much farther" means? For example, in Germany people would start talking in German with me on the conversation? And yes, if I would to live there I would like to learn the language. I'm also not comfortable with people being able to communicate in a manner I cannot understand (this is mostly paranoia, but it is also social uncomfortable).

Comment author: hyporational 03 November 2013 05:45:02AM *  4 points [-]

If you want more exact data just look up the relevant statistics.

I've travelled to many countries in Europe, and in my experience you survive with English from better to worse in the following order, but you survive in all of them: UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia. Some relevant countries like Iceland, Denmark and Netherlands are missing. I interacted mostly with less educated people, so this info isn't necessarily relevant for university studies.

My comfort zone for living in a country for extended periods of time speaking only english would be somewhere before Slovenia or Estonia on that list. In France, Italy and Greece the problem was not only that fewer people spoke english, but even the people who knew english were really persistent in speaking their native language.

For example, in Germany people would start talking in German with me on the conversation?

It always takes less effort to speak your native language, so you should expect that.

Sometimes people start talking to you in a language you obviously don't understand. This has happened to me many times when I've asked a question in english. If this happens to me with a language I don't understand, I start talking Finnish back to them and smile. After a while they realize how ridiculous this is.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 November 2013 02:40:32PM 1 point [-]

France, Spain and Italy ahead of Czech Republic and Hungary? Seriously? Granted, I've only ever been to the capitals of the latter two, but...

Comment author: joaolkf 03 November 2013 06:44:35AM 1 point [-]

I've found the data on proficiency: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EF_English_Proficiency_Index , but not on willingness to talk the language. Which countries would you consider to be the least willing? France and Italy are pretty low on proficiency for an European country, it mightn't be just unwillingness.

Comment author: hyporational 03 November 2013 06:58:44AM *  1 point [-]

The test takers were self-selected and no demographic information was collected on them.

Because of self selection that data is probably flawed to the point of uselessness.

Low proficiency and unwillingness go hand in hand more or less, but it seems to me that people in some countries take more pride in their culture and language than others. France, Greece and Italy fit in that category better than Scandinavian countries for example. I suspect that the longer independent history these countries have and the bigger players they are, the more prideful they are.

My home country, Finland, has a very short independent history, and is also a demographically small country. People are very willing to speak english here.

Comment author: Alexandros 03 November 2013 11:15:59AM *  1 point [-]

I'd be shocked if you found it common in Greece for people to be able to speak English but refuse to, like the French/Germans are known to do.

Greeks are proud of their language/culture/whatever to a severe fault, but they don't have pretensions of being a world language that others ought to know.

Comment author: hyporational 03 November 2013 11:55:30AM 2 points [-]

World language pretentions are another factor entirely, seemed to be a real problem only in France. I can't say I've met any people who outright refused to speak english if they clearly knew it, I'm just saying that in some countries you have to push it a bit more. If you're Greek, you probably know better.

Comment author: Baughn 03 November 2013 03:23:12AM 1 point [-]

You'll have to get over that paranoia. People will always do that, even in nominally English-speaking countries.

In general, the larger the country is, the less chance there is that a random person you meet on the street speaks usable English. Germany, France and Spain are particularly bad in this regard. I don't have hard numbers, but with very wide margins, you might expect that >95% of the working population speaks English in Scandinavia but only 50% in France.

So go to Sweden, if you have the option. Scandinavia's the nicest area of Europe anyway.

That said, emphasis on "random" above. Anyone working for a university is almost guaranteed to be competent in English, especially in a technical area.

Comment author: hyporational 03 November 2013 05:07:29AM *  2 points [-]

I think you'd do fine with English in Sweden. Not a problem in Finland, either. Assuming you interact mostly with educated people.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 11:07:49PM *  0 points [-]

I don't know that either. Anders said everyone speaks English all the time, even if there are many Swedes and one foreigner on the conversation.

Comment author: knb 02 November 2013 03:14:20AM 2 points [-]

3rd Stockholm (where everyone is born a transhumanist)

Why do you think this?

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 08:05:14AM 1 point [-]

Also, some argue the singularity will hit there first: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arenamontanus/7472030838/

Comment author: jkaufman 02 November 2013 02:41:30PM 0 points [-]

Why does Hanson argue that?

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 10:47:08PM 0 points [-]

It's a technology oriented country, one of the most developed and it is cold.

Comment author: Paulovsk 03 November 2013 12:28:14PM 1 point [-]

What does the cold have to do with it?

Comment author: joaolkf 03 November 2013 12:55:26PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 03:48:40AM 0 points [-]

I know at least 10 Swedes, all of them attest to this. If you go through their departments, it becomes obvious also. It seems to be part of their culture by now. It is a technological oriented country. The downside is that universities there aren't so good as in UK. Merely the fact I know 10 Swedes, all transhumanists, while living in Brazil, being antisocial, and never being there, it is an evidence.

Comment author: jkaufman 02 November 2013 04:48:13AM 1 point [-]

How did you meet these Swedes?

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 08:15:21AM *  0 points [-]

The fact they came from FHI-Oxford does weakens the evidence, since they are all transhumanists anyway. But the fact that most of FHI is Swedish is another evidence in itself. Also, I believe the stronger evidence is the opinion of those people about their own country. Some said they were really surprised when they left Sweden with the existence of non-consequentialist people.

Comment author: jkaufman 02 November 2013 02:40:06PM *  3 points [-]

most of FHI is Swedish is another evidence in itself

  • Nick Bostrom, Director: Swedish
  • Stuart Armstrong, James Martin Research Fellow: English, I think
  • Nick Beckstead, Research Fellow: American
  • Daniel Dewey, Alexander Tamas Research Fellow: American
  • Carl Frey, James Martin Research Fellow: not sure EDIT: Swedish
  • Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, James Martin Academic Project Manager: Irish, I think
  • Vincent Müller, James Martin Research Fellow: German
  • Toby Ord, James Martin Research Fellow: Australian
  • Anders Sandberg, James Martin Research Fellow: Swedish
  • Milan Cirkovic, Research Associate: Serbian
  • Robin Hanson, Research Associate: American
  • Guy Kahane, Research Associate: maybe Israeli?
  • Carl Shulman, Research Associate: American, I think EDIT: Canadian

I count two Swedes, though I'm not that solid on some of these people's nationalities; quick searches can be misleading.

Some said they were really surprised when they left Sweden with the existence of non-consequentialist people.

Most transhumanists are consequentialist, but so are lots of people. In fact the only people I've met who argue "as a society we should do X even though it has worse outcomes" are philosophers.

Comment author: Alicorn 02 November 2013 05:30:22PM 2 points [-]

Carl Shulman is from Canada.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 02 November 2013 09:50:49PM 2 points [-]

The obvious country that seems left away but is compatible with Joao's goals is Canada. Maybe a little more probability mass should be assigned to the other non-Sweden Scandinavian countries. I would probably swich the interest in Germany into Finland, Denmark, and even Reikjavic, the only sufficiently populated part of Iceland.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 10:51:55PM 0 points [-]

Canada requires GRE, but they do have some Uehiro-analogues there. The problem with other non-Sweden Scandinavian countries is that I do not know many people there which could guide me through finding good Professors. Kaj already said he doesn't know anyone in Finland. But I ought to check that anyway, I will give it a run through their websites and ask around. If you know relevant people there, PM me.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 10:43:56PM *  1 point [-]

I count two Swedes, though I'm not that solid on some of these people's nationalities; quick searches can be misleading

False. These are the Swedes currently on FHI: Nick Bostrom, Anders Sandberg, Carl Frey, and Kristian Rönn. I wouldn't count the Research Associates when making the proportion, since they are not there 95% of the time. Plus, your list is not up to date.

Most transhumanists are consequentialist, but so are lots of people. In fact the only people I've met who argue "as a society we should do X even though it has worse outcomes" are philosophers.

False. Most people and philosophers are deontological. But consequentialists are overrepresented among philosophers and even more among transhumanists. I will not give you the evidence for this, it is your responsibility to find out if you find it important, search for trolley problems studies.

Are you trying to get in anywhere useful with this whole Swedish discussion? I'm pretty sure about my facts here, and unless there would be extreme utility in finding out that actually Nick lied about his birthplace or whatnot, I will not be discussing this issue any further.

Comment author: jkaufman 04 November 2013 05:44:39AM 4 points [-]

False.

You're being excessively confrontational. I'm curious about how transhumanist Sweden is, and how Swedish the FHI is.

Plus, your list is not up to date.

This is the list from their website.

False. Most people and philosophers are deontological. ... I will not give you the evidence for this.

If other people have pointers to evidence on this I would be curious.

My impression is that most people are a mixture of consequentialist and deontological, but everyone who I've gotten into a thorough discussion with about this has come down to claiming that the deontological parts of their morality are there because they lead to better outcomes.

Comment author: joaolkf 04 November 2013 09:01:41AM *  2 points [-]

You're being excessively confrontational.

You are right. I'm very sorry about that. I mildly panicked seeing that the first comments of an extremely personally relevant post were concentrated on the Swedish issue, which wasn't the core of my question.

This is the list from their website.

Yes, I know. It's missing Kristian, and I believe some research associates are not collaborating with FHI anymore.

If other people have pointers to evidence on this I would be curious.

Any trolley problem study will give you the proportion on the normal population. It's about 80% deontological, 20% utilitarian. Eric Schwitzgebel studies will give you the proportion among philosophers and among ethicists. The evidence for transhumanists is anecdotal. Although I've been one for 6 years, have directed a transhumanist NGO and have met many old timers, I've never met a deontological transhumanist in my life.

Comment author: jkaufman 04 November 2013 02:33:14PM 2 points [-]

I mildly panicked seeing that the first comments of an extremely personally relevant post were concentrated on the Swedish issue, which wasn't the core of my question.

Sorry about that. I'm interested in this tangent, but if you're not I'm fine dropping it.

Any trolley problem study will give you the proportion on the normal population.

I don't think trolley problems are a good measure of how consequentialist random people are. They're designed to push us far past our intuitions, to figure out if we still say consequentialist things when it means actively deciding who lives and dies, as well as overriding our generally very strong "don't kill people" heuristic.

A similar test, in the opposite direction, would be something like "would it be ok for someone to steal food if they would otherwise starve to death?" This pushes people away from "stealing is wrong" towards evaluating outcomes. They may or may not think the societally corrosive effects of stealing outweigh a starvation death postponed, but my experience is they'll generally consider it in terms of consequences.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 04 November 2013 03:01:57PM 0 points [-]

Yes, I know. It's missing Kristian

Kristian is no longer working for FHI.

Comment author: Sean_o_h 10 November 2013 11:33:29AM 1 point [-]

Kristian has returned to Sweden, but is still working remotely part-time for FHI.

Comment author: vallinder 06 November 2013 11:19:45AM 1 point [-]

I don't think Sweden is significantly more transhumanist than several other western European countries. The fact that two influential transhumanists (Bostrom and Sandberg) are Swedish could be due to chance. Once they became known, they may have attracted a disproportionate number of Swedes to adopt similar views, but that number is still trivial compared to the population as a whole. In fact, it could be that the general egalitarian sentiment makes Swedes less likely to accept certain transhumanist positions (even though that sentiment is arguably weaker today than it was a few decades ago).

Comment author: joaolkf 10 November 2013 05:42:32PM *  0 points [-]

I would have thought the there were a Bostrom-Sandberg effect, specially since Sweden doesn't have such a big population. However, by looking at the WVS graphic it's hard to say rational self-expressing values wouldn't be expected to correlate with transhuman values. But, yes, probably the egalitarian sentiment would be a factor against transhumanism, I've heard transhumanists there complaining about that.

Thank you for your input, you were the first to present a counterevidence to my assumption. Those things might be more valuable than you think in this case.

Comment author: Creutzer 02 November 2013 04:57:15PM 1 point [-]

I'm a bit confused as to the point of this. First, you already seem to have a ranked list, only with a few draws - where does this ranking come from? Second, what exactly is it that you need to choose? Which ones of these to apply to? How many? Why not all? It might be beneficial to postpone the choice and make it easier by then narrowing the set of options down to those that accept you.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 10:58:16PM *  2 points [-]

You are right, the post is not clear on that. My list is solely based on academic criteria. The point is how to factor out non-academic criteria. In fact, I do not even know which are these criteria. That would be my first question.

There are many things that will be affected by accessing these other factors. First, I think Oxford is much above the 2nd option. But it is above enough that if I do not get in on the first time (80% probability), I should wait and apply next year instead of going to somewhere else where I got accepted? Second, my current plan is to build to be the strongest possible application for Oxford and use it elsewhere. But if Oxford is not so clearly the undisputed 1st place, then I should be more concerned with building a good application that also accounted for other countries specific criteria.

I will add that to the post. Thanks.